TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a law Friday making New Jersey the third state to raise its smoking age to 21.
Christie cited the strain on the health care system caused by tobacco-related illnesses. He also noted his mother died from the effects of smoking.
“By raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21, we are giving young people more time to develop a maturity and better understanding of how dangerous smoking can be and that it is better to not start smoking in the first place,” Christie wrote.
Previously, the age was 19. The restriction applies to tobacco products and electronic smoking devices. Christie vetoed a similar measure last year.
Raj Sadu works at a bodega in Elizabeth and is glad he sells them, but he doesn’t like doing it.
“Because we have to, because it brings the customer. That’s all,” he tells WCBS 880’s Mike Sugarman.
Down the street at Pastime Tavern, barkeep Betty Gatarski isn’t so sure.
“It’s like anything, if you’re gonna do something, you’re gonna do it no matter what,” she said.
Gatarski started smoking when she was 12 but recently quit, and thinks kids are going to get them anyway.
“No matter if they raise the age or not,” she said.
Hawaii and California are the only other states where the smoking age is 21. A bill raising the age in Maine from 18 to 21 is awaiting Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who has not said whether he will sign it.
The measure in New Jersey will help save lives, according to the state’s health director Cathleen Bennett.
“Because we’re preventing youths from purchasing tobacco products and establishing an addiction,” she tells WCBS 880.
Reports show smoking causes about $4 billion in health care costs to New Jersey each year, said Democratic Sens. Richard Codey and Joseph Vitale, co-sponsors of the bill Christie signed into law. That amount doesn’t include costs related to secondhand smoke or smokeless tobacco use, they said.
“Data surveys show that if individuals aren’t smokers by 21 years of age, they will most likely not start later in their lives,” Vitale said. “Making it harder to buy cigarettes by raising the age to legally purchase them in New Jersey will help prevent our youth from becoming lifelong smokers and suffering the long-term effects of the habit.”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)